Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 8 Review: A firm, responsive do-it-all trail runner. 12 Comparisons


Article by Jeremy Marie, Jeff Valliere, and Renee Krusemark


Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 8 ($140/140€)



Introduction

Jeremy: After a complete revamp of the Kiger line with the 7th version, Nike just made minor adjustments with the new Kiger 8.


The midsole keeps the combination of a thick React foam layer, an Air Zoom unit at the front protected by a segmented rock plate, as well as a plate at the heel, between the React layer and the outsole.

The outsole is basically the same as the 7th, with a differentiated compound for front and rear.

Changes are to be found in the new upper mesh, which now consists of a very airy, almost grid-like mesh with an underneath layer to protect from debris. Lacing system, heel retention are still using the proven design of the previous version.


Pros:

Nice fitting upper with a secure foothold from midfoot to heel JM/JV/Renee

Spacious toe box JM/JV/Renee

Rock protection is great JM/JV

Reactive cushioning from heel to midfoot JM/JV/Renee

Versatile traction…on hard or dry trails. JM/JV/Renee


Cons:

Far from the svelte shoes the first Kigers were - gaining weight each iteration with here the weight about the same as the Kiger 7. JM/JV/Renee

A bit jarring under the front of the  foot despite the amount of midsole, maybe due to the rock plate and the lugs pushing through the Air Zoom pod. JM/Renee

Traction is really-so-so on muddy trails (with important side sliding), and still slippery on hard wet ground (beware of wet rocks and roots!) JM/JV

Stats

Weight: men's 11.11oz / 315g (US10.5), 10.9oz / 310g (US10), 8.97oz / 255g (US6.5)

Stack Height: men’s 30mm heel / 24mm forefoot 

$140/ 140€. Available now.


Tester Profiles


Jeremy MARIE, French, 40y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120kms, Some shorter mellow races (Saintelyon 45kms, Ecotrail Paris 45kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km - 4’30/km 

Jeff Valliere runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 

Renee is a former U. S. Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.


First Impressions and Fit



Jeremy:  Nike clearly knows how to design nice looking shoes, and the Kiger 8 is no exception. Even this very classical, muted black and gray color scheme has some nice design touches that make the shoe stand out as an aggressive trail runner.


The step in feels immediately comfortable, despite the mesh looking like a plasticy grid. Actually the mesh is isolated from the foot by an inner sleeve that acts as a protection from dust and debris, and is even more separated around the midfoot thanks to the tongue’s gusset.



As a consequence, I’ve felt no pressure points on the foot which is gently hugged in this sleeve, the outer mesh acting more as a giant overlay providing foothold and stability.


The main drawback I see at first glance is the substantial shoe the Kiger has become. Far from the light Kigers 3 and 4 I used on many miles, the Kiger now looks more like a solid mid-to-long distance trail shoe providing lots of cushioning under foot, at the cost of increased weight. This reminds me of the Saucony Peregrine evolution, which has gone from a minimal, lugged light beast of a trail racer to an ultra trail capable shoe, finally losing weight and going back towards its roots in its latest iterations.


Jeff V:  The Kiger 8 looks very familiar with a nearly identical build to the 7, with an obvious new upper mesh material and minor upper design tweaks.  

While very loud, I find the red/blue colorway to be very appealing and fast looking, I know what I’ll be wearing on the 4th of July!  Step in is as comfortable as I expect from having tested the previous version and the upper has clearly been dialed in.  I found the previous upper of the 7 to be good and appreciated the room in the toe box, however they felt long and with a bit too much ceiling height, to the point where I wish I had downsized by half a size.  

The 8 however has brought all of that in and feels more true to size, while still maintaining sufficient room for the toes to splay and forefoot to swell.  


Security and foothold has for sure improved.  When I first tested the 7, I was struck how Nike has moved in a new, more maximal design for the Kiger, taking it from what I considered to be a fast, shorter distance speedster, to a heavier, more substantial shoe for mid to longer distances.  It took me a while to accept that, so the with the 8 it is clear they are maintaining that design, at least for 2022 (though I wish they would carry over some of the technology here and slim it back down to a lighter, quicker version).


Renee: The Kiger 8 is my first in this series of Nike trail shoes. I’ve always wanted to try the Kiger, but the reviews have been mixed for a few years. Is it a nimble, fast shoe? A mid to long distance shoe? Neither? My first impressions were good. The Kiger 8 is a nice trail shoe, but its use greatly depends on the runner and running terrain. For fit, I found the Kiger 8 to run long and would suggest a half size down for runners between half sizes. I wore a men’s size 6.5, which is probably a women’s 8. 


Upper



Here is where the K8 differentiates from the Kiger 7 (RTR Review)

As it can be seen in the pictures, the new outer mesh is largely perforated and looks like a thin grid going from front to the ankle and heel collar.

This thin mesh is abrasion resistant and has very little give to it. Combined with the lacing system - almost identical to the 7th, and the loops that go well over the foot, the mesh acts as a net, holding the foot in place without being too close to it. I find it easy to adjust the tightness of the upper just by pulling a bit more on the laces: they slide nicely through every loop and bring the whole suede-like overlay all over the foot in an uniform way. The tongue is not really thick, nor thin: it’s made in a TPU like material, the same kind that is used in the Scott Supertrac RC2, with the same success in isolating the foot from any discomfortable pressure point.


Being gusseted, the tongue is easy to put in place and stays there without moving at all.


At the very front, the toe bumper is very reminiscent of the one used in the K7. It offers some protection but I think its main use is to reinforce the mesh on lateral sides rather than really protecting the toes - personally I don't like to bump on rocks, I usually fall afterwards ;)

Going to the rear of the shoe, the heel and ankle collar see a bit of a change versus the previous version.The lower part, just above the midsole, is a bit rigid, but the upper part, just above the external seam, is more flexible. It almost looks like Nike wanted to build a sock-like collar, but stopped midway. Anyway, this construction offers a supple contact under the ankle, and the thick padding that goes round the heel works wonders holding the foot.



This padding occupies the upper third of the collar, giving more space to the base of the heel, and feels like a soft foam.


I never had an issue with heel hold (and more generally foot hold) in Terra Kigers (3 and 4), and despite the completely different construction on this 8th version, the hold has always above any doubt. It works, it’s soft, comfy, and the semi-rigid heel counter base is never felt on the run.


One minor gripe I have is on breathability: the very open mesh is doubled with an inner sleeve, and I found that it can easily lead to hot feet. I appreciate its protection from debris and dust, but ended some runs with the sensation of hot feet.


Sizing is spot on, maybe a bit on the longer side for my usual US10.5. As far as I can remember, they fit a hair longer than the K3 and K4, but I prefer this. A bit more length at the front and a wider fit are things that I wanted on my old Kigers.



Jeff V:  Jeremy provides an excellent description of the upper.  In comparison to the Kiger 7, the upper of the 8 is more dialed in as I mentioned above, with better foothold, less excess room in the forefoot, bringing in the length and ceiling height just a bit.  

That said, they still feel a touch long, which I find perfect for any run that I have done and suitable given the longer distance nature of the Kiger now.  If you feel like you are on the edge of sizes or want fit to be even more dialed for technical running, I would consider sizing down a half size.  In a side by side comparison, I also note that midfoot hold is also slightly improved and I find lacing to be a bit more positive and secure, likely due to the new woven laces that provide a bit more grip when tightened.  

Additionally, I find that the new upper with improved foothold/fit, somewhat changes the overall nature of the shoe for the better, making running in them more confidence inspiring with the upper, midsole and outsole integrating well for performance.

Renee: I’m in agreement with Jeremy and Jeff. I found the upper to be extremely comfortable and secure. Plus, the Kiger 8 (in any color) is a good looking shoe. I had no fit issues, no irritation, no hold issues. 


Like Jeremy, I think the Kiger 8 runs slightly long. For runner’s between half sizes, I suggest a half size down. I won’t be using the Kiger 8 for ultras, so a shorter (perhaps slightly lighter) Kiger would be great. Jeremy made a good point about the breathability of the upper. While it is very comfortable, the upper can be hot. The outer mesh on the upper allows dirt to enter, which then becomes trapped between that mesh and the inner sleeve/material. Getting that dirt and muck out is impossible unless you submerge the shoes in water. 


Midsole


The midsole is basically the same as the Kiger 7: 30mm heel, 24mm at the front with a combination of React foam and Air pod under the forefoot. A segmented plate is used at the front to ensure rock protection without losing too much flexibility, and the heel also keeps its plate just above the outsole layer.


After a first quick “dog-run” where I enjoyed the foam’s reactivity, the next two runs with the shoes left me quite puzzled: I ended those back to back 2h30 runs with sore feet, especially at the front, like I felt the lugs punching through the midsole. 


The runs were two easy dry forest trails runs, with a forefoot strike on quite hard ground. After discussing a bit with my fellow RTR colleagues, it appears that the combination of the lugs pattern, plate and Air Zoom pod would be the culprit. So, I focused on this aspect on the next run, just to confirm this: that a pronounced forefoot strike on hard ground does not work well with the Kiger, IMO. Attacking a bit more at the midfoot, this issue completely disappeared, and I enjoyed the nice balance of cushioning, firmness and reactivity offered by the React foam. Not squishy at all, not mushy, but an energetic, responsive ride that leans on the firm side at first, softening a bit after 30-40kms (25 miles) of running in them. 


I really like the homogeneity and predictability of the React foam, especially in a trail running shoe where those aspects are essential to keep control of the ride.


Despite the thickness of the midsole, I also found that the ground feel is not completely muted, and you can still have a sense of what’s under the foot - I like this very much! 

Jeff V:  Again, Jeremy describes the midsole well, but I never experienced the sensitivity in the forefoot, even on rocky terrain, probably because I am more of a heel striker.  The overall feel of the midsole is the same as the 7, but in side by side comparisons, it is obvious that they do soften over time.  

As I said in my previous review of the 7, the air pod in the forefoot creates a somewhat obvious, bulbous bubble under foot that you can feel just standing in place and then even more apparent while running.  I actually cannot recall ever running in a shoe that strikes such a fine balance of having all day, couldn’t-want-for-more cushioning, with such good ground feel and contouring over rocks/terrain underfoot and with such confidence inspiring, predictable precision.  While there is not a lot of spring or pop at toe off, I find the Kiger 8 to still be a fast and responsive shoe, where the sum of all its parts integrate so well that it is just as happy hiking or jogging as it is pushing hard for a PR. Protection underfoot is very good, but I do notice the occasional hit when running through talus or sharp rocks/rock gardens.


Renee: Jeremy and Jeff made great points! The midsole is soft, cushioned, and responsive. I did 200m repeats on dirt and gravel, and despite the weight of the Kiger 8, it’s not a bad speed day shoe. The ground feel is great, which I greatly appreciate because it makes the Kiger run lighter and more nimble than its actual weight. Like Jeremy, my forefoot became somewhat sore during mid distance efforts. The midsole cushion is good, but not enough to counter the plate and lugs. I wouldn’t do a 20 miler with the Kiger 8 unless I had walking/hiking mixed in. 



Outsole


The outsole is exactly the same as the Kiger 7.


Mid-depth lugs result in an all-terrain traction, but I find that they can be harsh underfoot on hard-pack trails as described in the previous section. My guess is that those lugs, using a quite hard compound, push hard against the rock plate making the ride way more firm than it should be considering the stack and the React foam/Air pod. Road stretches are far from nice if you have a heavy forefoot biased strike, whereas I never really have a second thought about this wearing the Kiger 3 and 4, or even the Scott Supertrac RC2, for a close comparison. 


With a midfoot strike - and even more for heel strikers - the feel is completely different as there’s no Air pod acting like a bubble pushing under the foot.

Despite their depth, around 5-6mm, the lug pattern does not work very well on light mud where the shoes slide to the side. To do the Kigers justice, I have a very clayey kind of mud around home which is a pain for lots of shoes. Save from those specific conditions, the outsole proved to be effective in many sort of terrain, be it dirt, loose, forest trails, dry rocks.


I appreciate how the outsole can conform a bit to terrain irregularities and flex a bit while staying protective.


The main gripe I have, and it’s a constant on the Kigers, is traction on wet rocks. It’s clearly better than the Kiger 3 and 4, but it’s still not confidence inspiring.

Jeff V:  I agree with Jeremy on his observations, though I do not find the rubber compound to feel all that harsh on hard surfaces.  After a year of running in the Kiger 7 which is largely the same outsole, I find traction to be adequate in dry conditions and on mellow to moderate terrain, decent on shorter stretches of technical rocky trail, but can struggle a bit in loose dirt, off trail grunge or in wet conditions.  Durability is about average.


Renee: I’m not running wet rock in Nebraska, so I don’t have issues with Nike outsoles (the Pegasus Trail included). I ran on loose dirt (mild incline/decline), gravel, grass, and some mud. I thought the outsole did well, and the flex helps the shoe feel nimble. On harder surfaces, I agree with Jeremy, that forefoot strikers may have irritation underfoot. For walking/hiking, that’s not an issue, but it is a reason I won’t use the shoe for long distances. 


Ride


Jeremy: I’ve detailed my main gripe with the ride for very pronounced forefoot strikers running on hard ground.


Save for this, the ride of the Kiger 8 is wonderful. They’re actually much heavier than the Kiger 3 and 4 I ran in but they do not feel as heavy as they actually weigh. 


Clearly the React foam is at play in this enjoyable ride combining protection, energy return, and smoothness. It adapts well to many intensities, giving lots of response when pushing the pace or doing sprints, while staying plush when going easy.


I forced some heavy heel strike on downhills just to appreciate how effective the shoe is at protecting from impacts. 


The shoe is still flexible - the flex at the front requires some energy - , and will favor more easy tempo paces than recovery ones, but I find it to suit a wide panel of intensities.


Despite weighing 315g in my size, they feel as nimble as lighter shoes, thanks to a good weight distribution between the upper and the midsole.

Jeff V:  As is the case with the 7, the ride is superb, plush, smooth, predictable and almost cloud-like in the forefoot, with good response and well rounded performance.  The ride of the Kiger 8 feels just as good on technical rocky trails as it does buffed out dirt or even short bits of road.  The new upper adds to the enjoyment in my opinion, making this an even more fun shoe to run in.

Renee: The ride is surprisingly fast and nimble for such a heavy shoe. I ran speed work (200m repeats) mostly on gravel, and I ran my typical pace. The flex underfoot is great and the midsole allows comfort and softness without compromising ground feel.

From a daily trainer perspective, the Kiger 8 works for everything from slow, easy, interval, fast, etc. For distances, I’m with Jeremy that the forefoot feel won’t be great for forefoot strikers, and for that reason, I wouldn’t choose the Kiger 8 for long runs unless I’m mixing in hiking.


Conclusions/Recommendations

Jeff V:  Overall conclusions are much the same as the 7.  The all day cushion, combined with the roomy, yet secure fit, improved traction, predictable and stable ride, responsive performance, underfoot protection and trail feel, make the TK 8 a great pick for just about any trail run or any distance.  I would not hesitate to race in this shoe, but it would likely be best for me for distances half marathon or longer.  I am not sure I would recommend upgrading from the 7 to the 8 and if you can find a 7 on sale for a steep discount, would likely go that route.

Jeff V’s score:  9.3/10

Ride: 10  Fit: 9.5  Value: 9  Style: 9  Traction: 8 Rock Protection: 9 


Jeremy’s score: 9.17 /10

Ride: 9.5 Fit : 9.5 Value: 9 Style: 9 Traction 8 Rock protection 9


Renee: The Kiger 8, my first Kiger, is surprisingly great. After reading so-so reviews and whining about the weight, I’m glad I tried them. The Kiger 8 will appeal to runners who like a do-it-all trail shoe that provides ground feel, responsiveness, and comfort. I won’t use the Kiger 8 for longer runs because of the forefoot ride and because of the heavy weight. The Kiger 8 has a bit of an identity crisis. The shoe weighs as much (or more) as some max cushion trail shoes. While I’d like to see the Kiger 8 decide what type of trail shoe it wants to be, I can’t complain too much with what it provides. 

Renee’s score: 9.2/10  

(-.50 weight, -.30 forefoot strike becomes firm on longer runs/hard surfaces)


Comparisons


Terra Kiger 7 RTR review ( RTR Review)

Jeff V: Same weight, midsole and outsole, only change is the upper, which is more dialed in and secure.  


Scott Supertrac RC2 (RTR review)

Jeremy: Just a tad lighter, the Scott feels nimbler on technical terrain, has a better traction, but clearly loses on versatility, all-day comfort and energy return offered by the responsive Kiger 8.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Jeremy


Topo MTN Racer 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The MTN Racer 2 is very close in stats, but I find the TK8 to be more plush, with better protection underfoot, and is more responsive and overall a faster shoe.

Renee: The MTN Racer 2 is a lighter shoe with a more aggressive outsole. The heel hold and midfoot hold are great in both shoes, although the MTN Racer 2 is superior. The MTN Racer 2 upper is not as hot. For plush comfort underfoot, the Kiger 8 is more comfortable, although in both shoes, I had some forefoot soreness during long runs. I wore a women’s size 7.5 in the MTN Racer 2 and a men’s 6.5 in the Kiger 8. Both have roomy toe boxes. 


Salomon Sense Ride 4 (RTR Review)

Jeff V: The Sense Ride has a slight upper which fits my foot as if nearly custom, however the TK8 feels much better cushioned and responsive and is not as firm as the SR4.


Saucony Mad River TR 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  MR2 is a value at $110 and its fit is excellent, as well as its traction and all around performance, however I find the TK8 to be a much more forgiving shoe with a superb ride and is slightly lighter.


Saucony Peregrine 12 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Peregrine 12 is a better shoe for more dedicated off trail use, above treeline or on loose terrain with its more aggressive tread. It is also lighter, more responsive and would be my pick for a mountain race.

Renee: What Jeff said. Saucony made magic with the Peregrine 12. I’d like to see Nike with a shoe more on par with the Peregrine 12. I’ll add that I thought the Peregrine 12 worked well on mellow terrain too, even for 20+ mile training runs. I wore a women’s size 8 in the Peregrine 12 and a men’s size 6.5 in the Kiger 8. The Kiger 8 runs slightly longer.


Saucony Xodus 10 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Xodus 10 is heavier, but does not feel it.  Xodus PWRRUN+ TPU cushioning, while plush, seems a bit firmer than the TK8’s React foam. Xodus is not as quick, though the Xodus performs better on roads.


Hoka Speedgoat 5 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Speedgoat 5 has a more narrow, tapered fit, more cushioning overall, though is lighter.  Protection underfoot is comparable, both are very stable shoes, but feel more confident in the TK8 with the added ground feel.


Hoka Torrent 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Torrent 2 is lighter and more nimble, but not as well cushioned or nearly as well protected.

Renee: What said Jeff (again!). As with my thoughts about the Peregrine 12, I wish Nike had a trail shoe more on par with the nimble, light options. The Torrent 2 is a lighter shoe that somehow manages to work for a variety of distances, at least for runners who don’t need a lot of cushion. Sizing should be comparable, with more room (width and length) in the Kiger 8. 


Brooks Catamount (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Catamount is lighter and more responsive, much faster on non technical trails or even roads, but when the trails get technical, the TK8 is superior.


Brooks Caldera 6  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Caldera is a much more plush cushioned shoe and has excellent fit, performance and door to trail versatility, but the TK8 is a bit more agile and performance oriented.  The Loft v3 foam however in the Caldera 6 is tough to beat.


Brooks Cascadia 16 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Cascadia 16 is a great choice for all around versatile use and excels in rocky, rough terrain with amazing foothold and protection, although the TK8 has a smoother ride and better ground feel.

Terra Kiger 8 is available now from our partners below

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes by Nike US and Top4Running Europe. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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9 comments:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the review.

I feel like all the effort and hard work they put into developing these is utterly pointless when it comes to the only part that makes contact with the ground being useless.

In the UK, wet rock is something we deal with all-year-round, which is why I'll never try another set of Nike trail runners until I hear that they've drastically changed their outsole compound.

Jeremy said...

Hi Unknown,
Thanks for reading the review and giving feedbacks on your running environment :)
Actually, I was a bit disappointed when I figured out that grip on hard wet "elements" is still so limited despite the years separating my last foray into to Kiger line.
When you know this before buying, you can choose accordingly. Let's say that this shoe works well for spring/summer/dry autumn conditions (or when you know you'll have a limited time on hard wet ground).

A tiny bit less durable outsole but more grippy on wet would be nice. I find that the grip on wet is a bit better on the rearfoot...

Bobcat said...

Regarding the forefoot cushion, I find the react foam needs about 100km to break-in. I think the react foam is too rigid at first and doesn't allow the airbag to work. The shoe becomes a lot more enjoyable after 100km.
I hope they add a rear air bag in the Kiger 9, as I find the heel is a bit harsh.

Ioannis R. said...

One of the most uniformatifve RTR reviews Ive ever read here, and I've been following reviews here for 9 years. Only one comparison? And no comparison to the Kiger 7? Hopefully there will be another Kiger 8 review coming soon.

Jeff Valliere said...

Unknown, yeah, would be nice to have some legit sticky rubber underfoot, but as we all know, no one shoe checks all boxes. I find it pretty good overall for the dry climate where I live (Colorado), but struggles a bit in loose chaff and is less than ideal when wet, so I might pick another shoe if continually wet (VJ or La Sportiva maybe).

Bobcat, I have noticed a big softening when comparing my well used 7 to the new 8, something that is sort of hard to tell unless doing a side by side comparison.

Ioannis R., I disagree, I think Jeremy did a fine job, sorry you were dissatisfied, but know that we all do the best that we can to provide thorough, timely reviews and our impressions will certainly not coincide with all opinions. We are also doing this as a labor of love and do not get paid. FWIW, I have subsequently received a pair of Kiger 8 and added my thoughts to Jeremy's fine review, plus some additional comparisons. Hope that helps.

Unknown said...

Hi Guys - one question: where can I get a new pair of Kiger 3 shoes? I iven would not bother which colour it has.

Eric said...

The Kiger has been my default for years--I ran in several pairs of 3s (all-time favorite), I'm about to wear out a pair of 5s, and I've got a pair of 6s on the way from eBay. I find them to be great on pretty much everything, from fast, mellow trails, to steep, technical terrain (although the traction could be better).

I've had a pair of 7s sitting in a box for about 6 months, and I don't think I'll ever run in them (which is why I tracked down the 6s). I'm sure they're great, but they seem fundamentally different from previous versions.

Now that the Kiger is a different shoe (what we used to call a Wildhorse ...), what are the best alternatives out there? The Topo Terraventure seems like it might be in the ballpark. Anything else?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the always great and comprehensive review!

One thing I note in RTR reviews and also in mu experience as a intermediate trail runner is lack of traction/grip on wet hard surfaces for basically any shoe. I'd be very grateful if anyone could give me the direction to a shoe that is actually good in such conditions, so I could have at least one of those...

Jeff Valliere said...

For wet grip, I have had the best luck (at least here in Colorado on the rare occasion it rains) with VJ and La Sportiva.